Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, right, reacts to the comments...

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, right, reacts to the comments of Nets center Brook Lopez during an interview at the Adidas Revolution 30 uniform release event in the NBA Store in New York. (Sept. 22, 2010) Credit: Christopher Pasatieri

Brook Lopez had his own special way of tuning out all those trade rumors.

Just call him Book Lopez.

"I kept to myself mostly," the Nets center said Wednesday, "and read a lot of books and comic books."

With that four-year, $61-million contract he signed, perhaps Lopez should buy his own book store now -- just in case those Dwight Howard rumors resurface after Jan. 15. That's when Lopez, whose name was mentioned as a trade chip for Howard, will be eligible to be traded if the Nets revisit the talks for the Magic's superstar.

Lopez, of course, wasn't totally oblivious to the constant trade talk and plans to use it as fuel.

"There is definitely a motivational factor," Lopez said at a news conference in Brooklyn. "I tried to ignore it as much as possible, but the little bit that I do hear, yes, I definitely use it as motivation."

Just before the start of free agency, Avery Johnson drove about 45 miles to chat with Lopez while he was conducting his youth camp in New Jersey. The Nets coach wanted to do his best to massage Lopez's feelings since the murmurs about a potential deal sending him to Orlando in a package for Howard were only going to grow more intense.

"It was trying to get ahead of what I saw coming down the pike, you know?" Johnson said. "I just don't want him to feel like he was on an island by himself. So I just wanted to go out and reiterate some of the things I told him about me wanting him to be a part of what we are doing here, and [how] a lot of stuff that's out there, as a coach, I can't necessarily control it.

"But just be ready to come back and be ready to be a dominant center like I know you can be."

Lopez, who played only five games last season because of foot injuries, said he's progressed well in his rehab and there's not much he can't do physically at the moment. He believes he's one of the top five players at his position in the league and is eager to prove it after sitting out the bulk of the lockout-shortened season.

Lopez, 24, had two bone breaks in his right foot in separate incidents last season. The first was in the preseason and caused him to miss the first 32 games. He reinjured the foot March 4 and missed the season's last 28 games.

"It's tough. It's tough," he said. "I want to be out there helping my team any way I can. Being able to play every game the first three seasons, it was weird not playing practically any in the fourth."

Lopez's rich contract is just part of the $330-million shopping spree the Nets have embarked on this offseason with the help of owner Mikhail Prokhorov's deep pockets.

"Prokhorov is willing to go all the way to the end zone, and that's a good feeling," Johnson said. "I've been in that situation before and I've seen it work, especially when you do it wisely. He's given us the go-ahead and the confidence that if something makes sense, if it costs more than the money than we had in the budget, he's willing to go there.

"He's promised that from Day One and he's living up to it."

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